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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowboarding Gus

In Green Bay, WI, the snow is deliciously deep.

Under the glistening glow of holiday lights, Alec and his dad, Chris, practice snowboarding down the snow pile in their yard.

Alec hitting the slope.


Snowboarding must be similar to skateboarding, so Chris offers FLD Gus a turn.  (See pictures of a very young Gus on a skateboard--my post of October 8, 2010.)

I barely set the board down and Gus leaps aboard and glides off.  He's a natural!

Gypsy gets excited when FLD Gus glides.


Gus has such a blast he grabs the board by its handle and drags it back to the top of the hill for another run
.


FLD Gus grabbing the board.


YAHOOOO!!!

Snowboarding FLD Gus!




Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: SURVIVING HOLIDAY TRAVEL

The holidays mean treasured time with family and friends, and sometimes travel and unfamiliar accommodations for you and your puppy.  This change in routine can be stressful (for you and your puppy) and at times even dangerous--decorations in easy reach, stray gift wrapping, bits and pieces of children's toys, unknown pets in strange homes.  

With proper planning, it is possible to successfully bring your puppy along on an extended trip to visit out-of-town loved ones.


BRING FAMILIAR ITEMS
Not only will you need all these things, but bringing what you use at home will lend a bit of familiarity to your puppy.  Be sure to pack:
  • crate
  • bed (if your puppy uses one)
  • food and dishes
  • appropriate toys (Kong or Nylabone)

CONTROL ARRIVAL
  • Try to give your puppy exercise before driving (or flying), and after your arrival, prior to entering your host's home.  (For TIPS on driving with your puppy, check out my post from October 12, 2010.)
  • Keep your puppy on-leash initially, especially if there are gifts or snacks within reach.
  • If there are pets in the home, introduce your puppy to  them slowly.  Use this opportunity to work on down/stays and settling exercises. 
  • If your puppy will play with another dog, make sure this happens in an area that has room--outside or in a basement, for instance.  In our case, the resident pups are outsized by FLD Gus and there is no room to romp safely; Gus stays on-leash or in his crate while inside.
  • Establish parameters--grant freedom gradually as your puppy learns the house and "park" arrangements.

MAINTAIN DAILY ACTIVITIES AS BEST AS POSSIBLE
  • Maintain your puppy's feeding schedule, even if there is a time change.
  • Get daily exercise (a walk is wonderful!) and don't forget some obedience work, although this is inherently integrated.
  • Take the opportunity to work on distractions, down/stays, and commands such as LEAVE IT or MAT, both at the home and in unfamiliar restaurants or stores in the area.
  • Don't be afraid to add crate time, if you give your puppy enough exercise and mental stimulation first.
  • Get enough rest--both of you!

BENEFITS
  • New distractions to work with your puppy.
  • Excellent socialization--in group settings, with different ages, and parties!
  • Educate your hosts and the public in establishments you visit with your puppy.

This Christmas is FLD Gus's turn to travel with us to Wisconsin to see Andy's grandkids, Keegan and Alec.  Last year, FLD Mike made the trip.  With planning, I am mentally prepared to attend to my puppy,  expose him to a stimulating environment and assortment of strangers, and still enjoy the family gatherings.  As an added bonus, my step-grandkids get an education about raising puppies for Leader Dogs for the Blind!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Travels with FLD Gus

FLD Gus travels restfully, as long as he can get out of the van periodically to "park."  Everything works out because we need to stop every hour and a half so Andy can walk around (in avoidance of future blood clots).  This routine lengthens our northern-route-drive through the U.P. to Green Bay, Wisconsin to visit Andy's grandkids, but we don't mind.  Little traffic, snow-covered woods, and ice flows lapping the waters of Lake Michigan make for a beautiful journey.  A snow-squall here and there south of the Bridge is the only menace to road conditions; sun and blue skies bless us west along U.S. 2.

We stop at a family restaurant just outside of Manistique for lunch, where we were welcomed with FLD Mike last summer during our family camping trip.  The long and narrow dining room is cheery with homemade Holiday decorations.  Scissor-cut snowflakes dangle on fishing line from the ceiling, sparkly stars are taped to the Christmas-light-ringed windows, and green or white mini-pine trees stand guard next to crafted wood condiment holders at each table.

I worry that FLD Gus will keep me busy settling him after five hours in the van, but, as usual, he surprises me.  This scary-smart puppy always seems to know that when he's working, he has to behave.  Gus lies down at my left side as soon as we take our seats at the small square table in the middle of the restaurant.  He is the main attraction to the few diners and staff this quiet Sunday afternoon.

"Do you know how hard it is for all of us right now?" the waitress says as she brings us our menus.  "We are dog-lovers here and we all just want to get down on the floor with him and snuggle him up."

I'm not anxious to ruin FLD Gus's good behavior just yet.  You can pet him when we get ready to go, I respond.

"Oh no," she says.  "I know he's in training.  We want him to be a good dog for someone one day."

Over 400 miles from Leader Dogs for the Blind downstate in Rochester, Michigan and we find an educated public!


We decide to stop at Green Isle Park and hike the East River Resch Family Trail with Gypsy and FLD Gus before arriving at Chris and Rachelle's, who not only have two boys, Keegan and Alec, but two small dogs as well.  Remember my post  "A Tired Puppy is a Good Puppy?"  We don't want to start our visit with a bad first impression!

A mile slug through typically deep Green Bay snow and we succeed.

Chris meets us in the snow-blown driveway with a trembling Brecker nestled in his arms.  Brecker is a black, three-year-old Cockapoo.  Inside the front door, Rachelle cradles Chloe, an apricot 13-year-old Malti-poo.  "What should I do?" Chris asks as I put a rearing FLD Gus into a tenuous SITGive me a hug! I reply, and just ignore him for now.  Merry Christmas greetings for all the humans; after a few moments, FLD Gus settles and we enter, both dogs controlled on leash.

Big and little dogs hold a wary distance, and no incidents mar the rest of the evening.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

FLD Gus and I wish everyone a safe and wonderful holiday!

It must be Christmas...is that Gypsy almost touching FLD Gus?!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

A nice family picture (missing only the Green Bay family).

Someone got the bright idea to throw the wrapping paper scraps when the self-timer clicked on my camera...looks like our timing was off!  Gypsy went chasing...

...finally got the timing right.  Sorry Andy, we blocked your face!  A good time was had by all.

Gus!  What are you doing?  "Hey, I'm just helping clean up!  Gypsy showed me how."

Gypsy-doodle, AKA "shredder."

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!!!
 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Holiday Partying!

FLD Gus thinks, "Will the partying ever end?"

A two-mile walk and a romp in the park makes for a calm puppy during a fondue dinner for 10 and the frenzy of a "white elephant" gift exchange.

Good boy, Gus!  (And no, the partying has just begun!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

FLD Gus, Family Christmas

For us, the holidays seem to be a month-long affair--Noel Night the first weekend, our annual cookie-bake the Saturday after that, and my family party the week before Christmas.

FLD Gus was a trooper at Noel Night, and did just fine with the mayhem at my family Christmas.  I opted against taking him to the cookie bake, but seeing how well he behaved at our family get-together, I'm sure he would have been a welcome addition at the cookie-bake, too.  Oh well...

Here are a few pictures!


FLD Gus hamming it up under my brother's Christmas tree.


FLD Gus weighed in at 35 pounds last night at puppy-class.  Getting big!  He is very familiar with my nieces Natalie and Sofia, but this was his first meeting with Claire.  Gus didn't seem to mind the attention!

FLD Gus giving Claire a side-long glance.
Natalie loves puppy ears!  And FLD Gus is tolerant.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: FIXING A MISCOMMUNICATION

FLD Gus has a habit.  He brings me shoes.

I am the reason he has this habit.

The very first time FLD Gus grabbed up a shoe, I did not chase him, or yell at him; I called his name to get his attention on me.  He turned and stopped, with the shoe secure in his mouth.  I squatted down and he pranced over to me.  Good boy, Gus!  I took hold of the shoe.  Without pulling it away, I said, Gus, give.  He released it and I wholeheartedly praised him.  Good give, Gus!  What a good boy you are!

FLD Gus was already familiar with the GIVE command; I introduced GIVE (and TAKE) early on in his time with me.  Whenever Gus opened his needle-teeth mouth to chew on, say, the rocking chair runner, I called Gus and offered him a Nylabone instead.  Take.  When Gus was happily chewing away on a Nylabone (or Kong), I oftentimes reached for it and said, Gus, give.  I would not get into a tug-o-war with him, but as soon as he let go of the toy, I rewarded him with praise.  Good give, Gus!  (For more on the TAKE/GIVE command, check out my post of October 5, 2010.)

Unfortunately, FLD Gus associated my "Good boy, Gus" after he GAVE me the shoe with the entire sequence of bringing me the shoe!  So far, he hasn't chewed up or damaged any shoes; he just proudly brings them to me.  And so far, our "strategy" in dealing with Gus's shoe delivery habit is to keep our shoes out of reach.  But with these snowy times and holiday visitors (who leave their shoes in the back hallway), this strategy isn't working.

What do I do now to fix this miscommunication?

I have been telling Gus to LEAVE IT whenever I "catch" him in the act of going after a shoe.  Gus listens to me, but I don't catch him every time.  As a next step, I planned to "set him up" by staging a shoe and adding a strong NO! or even a leash-correction when he went for it.

Before I tried this, I decided to get some expert advice.

Tonight, at FLD Gus's last Foundation Puppy Class at Leader Dogs for the Blind, I asked our instructor, Bev, for some suggestions.

Bev agrees that FLD Gus is confused about the GIVE command, but also that he's figured out that he gets attention from me whenever he carries a shoe around.  "Any attention is attention, even if it is negative," Bev said.  She explained that I need to stop giving Gus the attention he seeks, AND I need to clarify and reinforce the TAKE/GIVE command.


MY TASK TO "FIX" GUS'S SHOE BEHAVIOR

NO ATTENTION
Give no eye contact when Gus brings me a shoe; just ignore him.  If Gus proceeds to chew the shoe, calmly take it away from him, without saying anything, and put it right back where he got it.
 
DIVERT HIS ATTENTION
Take the shoe away and replace it with one of his toys, using the TAKE command.

REINFORCE THE TAKE/GIVE COMMAND
Tell Gus to GIVE me the shoe, take it from him; immediately offer the shoe back to him saying TAKE.  Then ignore him.  (Hopefully he will loose interest in the shoe.)

CLARIFY THE TAKE/GIVE COMMAND
Periodically offer a toy to Gus with the TAKE command; then use the GIVE command to retrieve the toy.  Praise Gus when he complies.

 
In planning a strategy to fix a behavior, it is important to fully understand what is driving the behavior.

My plan to "stage" a shoe and correct FLD Gus's behavior may have stopped him from going after shoes, but he probably would just find another behavior to "get my attention."  And if I really think about when Gus is most likely to "steal" a shoe, it might just be when his walk is over-due.

I think I need to add another task to my list.

EXERCISE--MIND OR BODY
After ignoring Gus for a short time after retrieving a shoe, I'll call him to me, clip on his leash and either take him for a walk, or practice some in-house obedience.


I'll let you know how thing progress in changing FLD Gus's shoe delivery habit!


Monday, December 20, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: "Follow My Leader"

FOLLOW MY LEADER

-by James B. Garfield
 First published in 1957, Viking Press.
 This edition 1994, Puffin Books, NY.
 ISBN 0-14-036485-4

This review (one of several) was on the Amazon.com website for Garfield's book, Follow My Leader:
From the Author's Granddaughter, July 7, 2008
This review is from: Follow My Leader (Paperback)
I'm James Garfield's granddaughter. He dedicated the book to my mother, Carolyn Lazarus, who is now 81 years old. My granddad lived to be 102 years old, living half of his life blind. He had a seeing eye dog, Coral, a golden retriever who was the sweetest animal I've ever met and she was so very attentive to him. He would have been very flattered to read these reviews so I thank all of you who have taken the time to write about Follow My Leader.

Follow My Leader is a touching story about an 11-year-old boy who looses his eyesight in an accident involving a firecracker (didn't our mothers always tell us this would happen?).  Jimmy Carter (no, not the President) learns to cope with his blindness through the help and guidance of Miss Thompson, a State Department of Rehabilitation therapist.  She teaches him Braille and mobility skills, including navigation with a cane.

Eventually, Jimmy is accepted into a guide dog school and travels 400 miles on his own to attend training and receives "Sirius," his German Shepherd "eyes."  Jimmy later changes the dog's name to "Leader," a name that turns out to be appropriate in more ways than one!

Jimmy's nine-year-old sister, Carolyn, his friends Chuck and Art, his single-mom, Ruth, and his aunt Martha accompany and support him in his journey through anger, fear, uncertainty, tentative confidence, forgiveness, and finally independence.  Jimmy finds allies at the guide dog school among his classmates and trainer, Mr. Weeks, but his roommate, Mack MacDonald, is the one who plants the seed that ultimately leads to Jimmy's "real" healing.

It was intriguing to read Garfield's granddaughter's review.  Garfield's blindness certainly enable him to draw upon his own feelings; real feelings that radiate clearly in his descriptions of Jimmy finding his way in this newly-dark world.  The fact that Jimmy's school refuses to allow access to Leader make it obvious that Garfield wrote Follow My Leader long before the American Disabilities Act (ADA), but details about Jimmy's mobility training are informative and entertaining.  For instance, the sequence when Miss Thompson coaches Jimmy in "facial vision" as he learns to feel air currents is fascinating.

    Jimmy clapped his hands and thought he heard the sound bounce back to him—like radar and like the bat.
    “Now I’ll lead you to the door.” Miss Thompson took his arm.  “You can clap your hands again and hear the difference.”
    Jimmy stood in front of the doorway and clapped his hands.  “Why,” he said, “it doesn’t sound just different, it feels different!”
    “Good!  You feel the air current,” she told him.
    “Yes, it’s blowing into the room a little.”
    “That is another way of seeing with your face.  You can both hear and feel.  Now Jimmy,” she went on, “if you will stand close to the wall I’ll let you try something else.  Here, stand about two feet from the wall and lean slowly toward it.”
    “What must I look for?”  Jimmy asked.
    “I’m going to let you see what you find.”
    “I found something.”  Jimmy turned his cheek to the wall.  “If I get close enough it sounds like putting a seashell to my ear.”
     “That’s too close,” she said.  “Remember you felt the air moving through the door.  All the air in this room is moving.  It strikes the wall and  starts back toward the center of the room, but meets another current of air that stops it.”
    “Then where does it go?” Jimmy tried to feel the breeze.
    “It just piles up against the wall and forms a sort of blanket or cushion,” Miss Thompson explained.
    “You mean the air is compressed near the wall?”  Jimmy asked.
    “Yes, Jimmy.”
    Jimmy turned his face in several directions.  “Hey, I think I’ve got it.”
    “All right.  Now how far are you from the wall?”  she asked.
    “Try it and see,” she suggested, and Jimmy found the wall.
    “Now step back a few steps and then walk slowly forward,” Miss Thompson instructed, “but stop just before you reach the wall and tell me how near you are to it.”
    The three children watched as Jimmy tried the experiment several times.
    “I want you to practice that, Jimmy, until you can walk right up to the wall and stop about one foot from it.”
    “All right, Miss Thompson, but I wish the walls wore perfume!”
p. 57-58

As a puppy-raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind, I was particularly interested in Jimmy's experience at the guide dog school.  (However, it is unlikely today that an 11-year-old would receive a guide dog; age 16 is the requirement at Leader Dogs.)  Before Jimmy meets Leader, he spends three days with Mr. Weeks learning commands in much the same manner as is currently practiced at Leader Dogs.  Leader Dogs calls this "Juno" training--the trainer manipulates the harness and acts as the guide dog for the person!

The next morning Jimmy went for a solo walk with Mr. Weeks.  He was given one end of a handle like the one a guide dog wears on his harness, and Mr. Weeks held the other end....They practiced for about an hour over the obstacle course, with Mr. Weeks playing guide dog.  Jimmy said afterward that Mr. Weeks did everything but bite.  "He growled once in a while when I made a silly mistake, but it was a lot of fun.  I can't wait to get my dog."   p. 104-106

Read Follow My Leader if you are interested in guide dogs.  Share it with youngsters; there is hope and solutions no matter how dark things get, and lessons to be learned about forgiveness and healing.  Enjoy the book, but keep in mind that Garfield wrote it in the 1950's, before the ADA (and before women's rights).  Sorry, I tried not to go there--that's all I'll say!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Counter Surfing Crime


THE SCENE OF THE CRIME

A still-warm Rum Cake, left cooling on the counter, with hunks mysteriously missing.


A SUSPECT?

FLD Gus looks up from his comfy new bed.  "Why are you looking at me? I didn't do it!  How could I?  I was at the concert with you!"


 ANOTHER SUSPECT

Gypsy, woozing on the couch, starting to look guilty.


THE "PERP"

Gypsy, no longer able to hide the effects of the Rum Cake.

GUILTY
 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa Andy's Workshop

Three giggling young elves (by the names of Elaina, Sofia, and Natalie) have been heard sawing and sanding in Uncle Andy's basement workshop.  Just what are they up to?

FLD Gus came down to investigate, but his way was blocked by Andy, who was taking a break on the stairs (but insisted he was supervising).  

Like most Labs, Gus proceeded to take advantage of the situation...hmmm, what a lovely ear!

FLD Gus looked up just as I snapped this picture.  A moment before he was enthusiastically licking Andy's ear!

Happy Anniversary my dear, here's to an exciting New Year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Letter from "The Seeing Eye, Inc" to Handlers

This letter to guide dog handlers from the President and CEO of "The Seeing Eye, Inc" was recently posted on a list-serve group for handlers, trainers, and volunteers involved with guide dogs.  I thought it was worth re-posting here for any guide dog handlers reading this blog.

Dear Fellow Guide Dog Handlers,

One of the biggest dangers we face as we travel with our guide dogs is attacks or interference from aggressive dogs. In an attempt to help increase awareness of this problem and the importance of responsible dog ownership for the pet owning public, The Seeing Eye has launched a survey across the U.S. and Canada that will take an in-depth look at dog attacks and interference.

The survey is open to all guide dog handlers in the United States and Canada and we will share our summary results upon request. We're using an online service that we know to be user friendly for screen readers, so we strongly encourage you to participate and tell any other guide dog users you know about this opportunity by forwarding this email or sharing the call-in number.

It's very important that we get responses from people who have not encountered problems with other dogs as well as those who have, no matter which school their dogs are from. The data we collect from the survey will be essential in making our case with law enforcement and animal control officers as well as with legislators as we urge them to enact or strengthen laws to protect guide dog teams. The survey will take between 5 to 20 minutes depending on your answers. You may access the survey at the following link: http://alturl.com/a5kcg <http://visitor.benchmarkemail.com/c/l?u=79542&e=90133&c=FBD7&t=0&email=Dnesv13VvmnaksGzOORcEKy3t%2FOCOVdu> .

For those of you who can't or don't want to take the survey online, you can call The Seeing Eye's main number, 800-539-4425, and ask for extension 1520. You will be asked to leave your name and phone number, and a volunteer will call you to conduct the survey by telephone. The preferred method though is to take the survey online, so I ask you to utilize that method if at all possible.

All those who respond by Friday, January 7, 2011, will be entered in a raffle to win a $100 gift card.

Thank you all, in advance, for helping us to better understand the scope of the issue and to work toward a solution to dog interference and dog attacks.

Sincerely,

Jim Kutsch

President & CEO

The Seeing Eye, Inc.

www.SeeingEye.org <http://visitor.benchmarkemail.com/c/l?u=79543&e=90133&c=FBD7&t=0&email=Dnesv13VvmnaksGzOORcEKy3t%2FOCOVdu>

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: STAIRS, AGAIN

FLD Gus strains against the leash.  We are paused on the next-to-last step going down into the training room for puppy-class at Leader Dogs for the Blind.  I won't continue until the leash goes slack and Gus relaxes.

Deep breath.

Okay, he's stopped pulling.

I step down.

Gus lunges.  The shortened leash spins him around when he reaches the end of it.  I let out an arrrrgggghhhhh of frustration and under my breath say, Dang, that LAST step!

As I gather FLD Gus  back into a heel position before we negotiate the heavy steel door into the classroom, I noticed my puppy-class instructor, Bev, on the landing above.  Jeez, I think, screw up right in front of Bev, that's just great.  She says, with a snicker, "We'll be working on stairs tonight!"

Turns out it's a good thing that Bev witnessed my exasperation.  We use the practice stairs (grooming platforms with three steps up and three steps down) in class and Bev gives me some personal instruction. 

Puppies will rush stairs when they are nervous, and the faster they bound, the more anxious they are about them.  We need to SLOW DOWN and take one stair at a time.  Bev coaches me to treat Gus as he stands with hind paws planted on the second step and front paws on the first step.

Good boy, Gus! I praise as he remains in place between elevations.  Take it nice!  Gus has a tendency to "snap" his food morsels out of my fingers; another behavior to work on.  Bev nods her approval and I encourage FLD Gus to take the last step to the floor.

He lunges.  Arrrgggghhhh!

Bev advises, "Treat him heavily here, too.  Just stand there and give him treat after treat saying, 'Good boy, Gus!'"

I thank her for her help.  We've got lots of work to do, Gus.


At home the next day, I clip Gus's leash on and heel him around our townhouse to "warm-up" before tackling the stairs.  Sometimes practicing obedience on-leash inside is difficult--we don't have much space and my dog Gypsy usually wants in on the action.  This day Gypsy is content to lie on the couch and observe.

Here are five "steps" I take to train FLD Gus not to leap off the bottom (and top) stairs.


FIVE STEPS TO CONQUERING STAIRS 

1.  Stop at the top of the staircase, square and facing the stairs.  Put your puppy into a SIT.  Good boy!

2.  Say your puppy's name, give the command HEEL, and take the first step down, stopping with both feet on that step.
  • If your puppy strains to go down more steps, restrain your puppy with the leash, use NAME RECOGNITION to get his or her attention, and hold the position until the leash is slack.
  • If your puppy is shy about taking the first step, gently encourage your puppy, pat your left calf and say something like, "Let's go, come on, you can do it!"  Be ready to prevent your puppy from jumping down another step.
 3.  Pause on this first step; then repeat each step to the bottom.

4.  At the last step, where your puppy is liable to lunge like FLD Gus, stop and treat your puppy until he or she stands calmly without pulling.

5.  Practice this going DOWN stairs, and going UP stairs.


TRAINING HINTS
  • If your puppy lunges off the last step, calmly place your puppy back into position with his or her back legs on the step above (or below if going up) and front legs on the last step or landing.  Hold that position using treats and praise until your puppy (and you) is composed.
  • If your puppy take off in a lurch after the last step at the top or bottom, try putting him or her into a SIT here as well, before continuing in a heel.
  • In between sets on the stairs, heel your puppy around and practice SIT, DOWN, and STAY.
  • Use treats at each step to start; gradually wean away the treats, maybe treat ever other step, or treat just the steps that seem to be the biggest stumbling blocks.  For FLD Gus, this was the last two steps going down, and the last two steps coming up.
  • Don't overdo it!  Take a break after 15-20 minutes; end your session on a positive with a command that your puppy knows well.  Release your puppy with an OK and play with your puppy for a bit.  Training should be FUN!
  • Approach EVERY staircase you encounter with your puppy in this same manner.
  • Be patient.  Don't expect your puppy to do it right the first time.  If you are CONSISTENT and PERSISTENT, your puppy WILL "get it."

BACK TO FLD GUS

I didn't think I made ANY progress with FLD Gus in our first home-training session, but the next day he did much better.  "Much better" means that he figured out that if he plops his front feet down one step at a time and pauses to look at me, he gets a treat!  I started treating him every other step.  He did NOT lunge off the second to last step (Hooray!  Lots of treats here!), but he still blasted off at the bottom.

Several sessions later his behavior on the last step has improved as well, but I must be alert to "catch" him so I can reward the behavior I want--a calm and controlled Future Leader Dog puppy stepping off the last stair.

I have no doubt I can help him get there now.  Thanks Bev!

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Leading Stars, Leading the Way"

FLD Gus and I stationed ourselves at the end of Aisle One on Saturday at the Pet Supplies Plus store on Harper in St. Clair Shores.  Everyone who entered the store HAD to travel down Aisle One; there was no getting around us!  We had volunteered to hang out for a couple of hours to help promote the partnership between Leader Dogs for the Blind and over 100 Pet Supplies Plus stores throughout Michigan and 14 other states.

The "Leading Stars, Leading the Way" promotion allows shoppers to make a donation to Leader Dogs for the Blind as they pass through checkouts in participating Pet Supplies Plus stores through December 31, 2010.  Donations support Leader Dogs' guide dog and technology programs for the blind and visually impaired.

On Saturday, December 11, volunteer puppy-raisers and their Future Leader Dog puppies, or working Leader Dog teams, visited Pet Supplies Plus stores to spread the word about these wonderful programs.

For more information about the "Leading Stars" partnership, and a complete list of participating stores, click on this Pet Supplies Plus "Meet a Leading Star" web page.


THE GAUNTLET OF AISLE ONE

FLD Gus was not eager to heel quickly past the squeaky, fuzzy, flavored dog toys in Aisle One when we arrived at Pet Supplies Plus on Harper.  Toys on one side of the aisle and 35-pound bags of dog food on the opposite side created a "gauntlet" of hard-to-overcome distractions for the little guy.

Somehow we made it, yet it turned out that the ENTIRE STORE proved to be a challenge!  One aisle was buried in dog beds, another was loaded with cat toys, cat food, kitty-litter, and all kinds of things "kitty."  Thank goodness for shiny-slippy floors--when FLD Gus stiffened his legs and put the brakes on, I kept him moving.  A finger poke here, a well timed LEAVE IT or GUS there and we eventually reached to front of the store to introduce ourselves to the manager.  Amid the "awwwwwes" of the staff, we were directed to the end of Aisle One.  Past the store distractions AGAIN.


PRACTICING "MAT" and "MEET AND GREETS" 

Safely back in Aisle One, I "borrowed" a rug square from a corner display and worked on MAT with FLD Gus.  He's fast becoming an expert at this game.  With one Gus. MAT, he immediately recognized that this green carpet was his new "mat," hustled over to it, twirled around and dropped into a DOWN, looking up at me with anticipation.
 
Good mat, Gus!  I didn't disappoint.  I kept half of his breakfast aside for just this purpose.  I tossed a morsel of Purina Pro Plan on the carpet.

As customers made their way toward us, I worked on keeping FLD Gus settled in a STAY on his mat.  He stayed, lifted nose busy scouting the scents.  I was pleased when every one of the customers politely asked, "Can I pet him?"  Yes, as long as he keeps "four-on-the-floor."  If he doesn't, please just step away.  A pleasant surprise--FLD Gus was, for the most part, a perfect gentleman!


DOG DISTRACTIONS 

FLD Gus spied a large Golden Retriever enter the store and sat up.  Gus.  He glanced back at me.  Stay.  I placed him back into a DOWN.  The couple with the Golden took their time, pausing now and then to inspect the squeaky toys.  Gus stood up, but stayed.  I placed him back into a DOWN.  When the Golden made the turn in front of us, Gus stood and strained at his leash, but I calmly settled him back DOWN on the mat.  Good boy, Gus.

FLD Gus intently watching a Golden Retriever and his persons.

Next, a dachshund and his owners became a new distraction.  This time FLD Gus lifted his nose but made no move to get up.  Several more dogs were not a problem for Gus; one time a small mixed-breed dog sidled up and they sniffed nose-to-nose without Gus moving.


FUN WAS HAD BY ALL

FLD GUS and I enjoyed meeting customers and talking up Leader Dogs for the Blind.  The manager told me they received many donations.  Thanks to all, and thanks to Pet Supplies Plus for supporting the mission of Leader Dogs for the Blind!

By the way, there is still time.  Consider purchasing your pet supplies at Pet Supplies Plus before December 31, and while you're there, make a donation that will help change a person's life!

Pet Supplies Plus staff pet FLD Gus, who is quite relaxed in spite of three large rabbits in the yellow cage beyond him!


The resident Vet gives FLD Gus a good belly rub.
 
FLD Gus had fun, but looks as though he'd like to go home.  He was a very tired puppy the rest of the day!
 

Friday, December 10, 2010

FLD Gus, Second Snow

Our first snow on December 1 didn't really count as a good snow fall; after all it was just a dusting.  This morning, however, the ground was covered.  FLD Gus walked gingerly when Andy took him out to park at 5:15am, lifting his paws high and setting them carefully down.  "But then he took care of business," Andy said.

FLD Gus leaving paw-prints.
Before the warming day melted almost all of the snow, Gus ventured out into our little patio garden, and left "look-at-the-size-of-those-paws!" prints behind.

   
FLD Gus: I think I want in!

FLD Gus:  Yes, I definitely want IN!!!

FLD Gus's sparkly prints didn't last long.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Shopping with FLD Gus

FLD Gus balks at getting out of the van.  It's his after-dinner-crap-out-in-Gypsy's-bed time, and we're making him go Christmas shopping with us instead.

Come on, Gus, let's go! I encourage with my very bestest "we are going to have soooo much fun (if you'll only get out of the van)" voice.  At last.  He does.  Good boy, Gus!

FLD Gus lags through Sam's Club as we wander the aisles looking for ideas for our "white elephant" gift exchange with the Andersens.  Andy's kids have shared in this bit before, but this will be the first year he and I are part of the action.

What is a "white elephant" gift exchange?  We all buy and wrap a silly generic $15 gift; all the gifts go in a pile, then the first person picks one and opens it.  The next person can either "steal" the first gift, or select another one to open; then the next person can "steal" either of the first two, or select another one; and on around.  A gift can only be "stolen" two times; then it stays with that person.  Sounds like we'll have fun with this!

FLD Gus, on the other hand, is not interested in games, or turning down aisle after aisle.  I tap my leg and say Gus, right (or left) at each turn.  He ducks his head and looks up at me, revealing half-moons below his eyes.  I know, Gus, we're keeping you up.  Come on, let's go!  At the checkout line, Gus slides into a down each time we inch forward.  He perks up when we make the last turn for the door.

Don't get too relaxed, I tell him as he jumps into the van.  We're going to Target next! 

When we arrive, I have to coax him out of the van again, but once inside the brightly lit store he bounces along at a livelier pace.  Maybe it's us...we know what we want here and take care of business right away, no meandering up and down aisles.

Wait a minute, I say to Andy as we're heading to check out.  I want to look at something.  I turn down the pet aisle and pause to check out the dog beds piled up on the shelves.  Out of the blue an excited BARK erupts from mild-mannered FLD Gus and he's raring to go.  What was that about!?

Andy is laughing behind us.  "He wants to curl up in that bed right there!"  I look where he's gesturing--on the lower shelf there is a very nice bed to fit in a large crate, and Gus is on point.  I reach down, take the bed off the shelf and place it on the floor.  Gus dives on it, but I pull him off when he goes for the price tag.  Ok, let's go home, I say.  Gus, heel.

FLD Gus has other ideas--shopping is suddenly fun after all!  With some persuasion, Gus heels regretfully away from the dog beds, but at the turn his legs lock and his feet slide askew on the slippery floor.  Oh no, it's the dog food aisle!


TONIGHT'S LESSON:  When you take your Future Leader Dog puppy Christmas shopping, stay away from the pet section!
 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rochester Christmas Parade

According to Leader Dogs for the Blind, the count was 47 on Sunday.  Future Leader Dogs that is, (and their puppy-raisers) who braved the cold to march with the Lions Club float in the Rochester Christmas Parade

FLD Gus and I marched.  Luckily this year, we gathered at Shield's Pizza for pizza and salad first, giving our Future Leader Dogs excellent experience in a busy restaurant--and with lots of puppies!  Then it was wait, wait, wait at the corner for the Lion's Club float to arrive.  It was a cold wait, but the cheer-filled walk down Main Street warmed us all up.

A big surprise for FLD Gus--we met his mom, Sienna!  Gus's tongue whipped faster than his squiggly lab body wiggled.  Sienna was happy to see him, but I'm guessing she was happy to send him on his way, too!

Enjoy some of the pictures I snapped of all the fun....

FLD Gus, settled under the table at Shield's, checking to see if I'm paying attention.

FLD Misha, rarin' to go!

FLD Aspen wants to go too!

FLD Gus, shivering while we wait for the Lion's Club float.

FLD Doug, embarrassed again!  Remember him and his tutu from Puppy Days?  Didn't he get big?

FLD Gus meets Sienna (mom).  Sienna looks up at her host Mary, Is this really Mr. Blue?

Sienna thinks, Yep, it's him alright!

Sienna adds,  He sure got big!  He's not coming home with us, is he?

FLD Gus can't stop licking mom Sienna.  I miss you mom!

No Christmas parade would be complete without Santa Puppy!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday's Training TIP: PERSISTENCE

FLD Gus jumped down out of our van and hurried me over to an inviting "park" area.  As I snapped the buckles on his blue "Puppy Being Trained for Leader Dogs for the Blind" jacket, I said, Time to go to work now!  Andy had gone ahead to ask permission to bring FLD Gus into the Rose City Cafe for breakfast on our way home from the north country.  No, Gus wasn't getting breakfast, we were!

The waitress welcomed us warmly.  And our breakfast was delicious--I highly recommend this restaurant anytime you find yourself north on M-33!

During our hour or so at the Rose City Cafe, FLD Gus was quiet and caused no problem for anyone, but he was overly interested in the metal base of our table, stray crumbs, and anything else on the floor that looked like it might be food.  Wiggly, wiggly, squirm, and up to investigate was not acceptable.  To me.  I wanted to enjoy the hot coffee on a bitter-wind morning and have a relaxing meal with my sweetie.

FLD Gus didn't care.

What did I do?  I practiced my doggedness--no four-and-a-half-month-old puppy was going to out-persistence me!
  • When the waitress seated us, I placed FLD Gus in a DOWN on my left side.  Good down, Gus!
  • I sat on the leash in such a way that I could sense movement and he would not gain purchase if he lunged.
  • When I noticed him straining to lick the table base, I said, Gus, leave it!  This command, when it works, elicits an immediate head turn toward me.  My LEAVE IT, on this occasion, worked.  Good leave it, Gus!
  • When I noticed him tongue-cleaning the carpet, I pulled his favorite Nylabone from my "Puppy-in-Training" ditty-bag, offered it to him, and said, Gus, chew this!  He chewed it.  For a while.
  • When he squirmed up to dive-bomb a wayward crumb of toast, I calmly re-placed him back into his DOWN.  He took interest in the Nylabone.  For a while.
  • When he squirmed up again, I calmly re-placed him to a DOWN.
  • When he squired again, I caught him before he got up and calmly and gently helped him back into a DOWN.
  • Eventually, he rolled over onto his side, and gave it up.

My persistence paid off!  And I enjoyed the rest of our breakfast, a snoozing-cute Future Leader Dog Gus at my side.


HINTS FOR SUCCESSFUL PERSISTENCE
  • Stay calm.  Never let your puppy get the best of you!
  • Pay attention.  If your puppy gets away with something unbeknownst to you, even just once, he or she will never stop trying to get away with it again!
  • Use commands to divert your puppy's attention.  Only say the command once.
  • Touch your puppy with your finger to divert his or her attention from the distraction.
 
Always make your puppy follow through with the command, and always praise your puppy when he or she immediately responds.  Remember...you CAN be more dogged than your puppy!


As we left the Rose City Cafe, the manager and the cook came out from the kitchen to see "the cute little black Lab puppy" and invited us to return.  Anytime!

A working FLD Gus, checking to see if I'm paying attention.